Espresso drinks are all the rage these days. They’re creamy, have a powerful kick to them, and provide a great energy boost with over 200 milligrams (6.8 ounces) of caffeine per serving. In fact, they’re so popular that espresso is also the base for other beverages like cafe con leche and lattes.
So, what are the differences between cafe con leche and lattes? Cafe con leche has a greater espresso to hot milk ratio than lattes, with equal parts of each as compared to 1:3 for lattes. That also means more caffeine in cafe con leche. Cafe con leche is more popular in Latin American and Hispanic cultures, while lattes are more popular in Europe and America.
It’s easy to get confused with so many different types of coffee roasts and unique beverages out there. Let’s first go over what cafe con leche really means and what’s in it.
Cafe con Leche Meaning
The Spanish “cafe con leche” directly translates to “coffee with milk.” This beverage is made of equal parts espresso and hot milk, providing a strong flavor that can also be diluted with extra milk and sugar.
Cafe con leche is one of the more popular coffee beverages in Hispanic and Latin American countries. Just as Americans sip a mug of hot coffee every morning, cafe con leche is typically paired with breakfast foods in Hispanic and Latin American countries.
Is cafe con leche the same as a latte?
Though cafe con leche and lattes are made of the same ingredients, it all comes down to how much of each is added when making them. Unless you’re going for different flavoring, all you’ll need to make both of them are hot milk and espresso.
Cafe con leche calls for the same amount of espresso and hot milk, so equal parts. When it comes to making a latte, you’ll need a lot more milk than espresso, usually one part espresso for every three parts milk (1:3).
The Differences in Flavor
Espresso, on its own, is known for having a bitter taste and strong kick to it. Adding hot milk is a great way to dilute the strength and taste and make it sweeter overall.
Both cafe con leche and lattes are relatively sweet compared to regular coffee. Since lattes require more hot milk than cafe con leche, they’re definitely more tolerable to people who are new to coffee.
The Differences in Caffeine Content
A single shot of espresso has about 65 calories per ounce. Every ounce of espresso is considered a “shot,” which means two ounces of espresso is considered a double shot.
So, let’s just consider the caffeine in espresso alone.
Since cafe con leche is equal parts hot milk and espresso, an 8-ounce cup of cafe con leche would have somewhere around 260 milligrams of caffeine.
With a 1:3 ratio of espresso to hot milk as there is in lattes, you’ll only be getting about 130 milligrams of caffeine per 8-ounce cup.
So, cafe con leche has about double the amount of caffeine as a latte.
The Differences in Popularity
Adding hot milk to espresso or coffee isn’t a unique idea. In fact, many drinks all throughout the world have the same exact combination of ingredients.
Yet, lattes are much more popular in America and some European countries than anywhere else. Americans tend to value sweeter beverages and a caffeine boost, which makes the ratio of hot milk to espresso ideal in this country.
Cafe con leche, on the other hand, has been one of the most popular beverages in Hispanic and Latin American countries for what seems like ever. So, you’re much more likely to see a person drinking cafe con leche on your trip to Spain or in regions of America with high Latin populations.
What is cafe con leche Cuban?
Cafe con leche Cuban, sometimes called cafe Cubano or Cuban espresso, is simply a variation of cafe con leche. The major difference is that cafe con leche Cuban is sweetened with some extra brown sugar.
When the sugar is added at the end, there’s a much sweeter taste overall. That might be quite surprising to a lot of people, as Cuban coffee is typically prepared with a darker roast, which should lead to a stronger flavor!
Are there any other variations of cafe con leche?
Actually, yes! There’s cafe au lait, which is considered to be the French version of cafe con leche (and also directly translates to “coffee with milk”).
The major difference between the two is that cafe au lait uses coffee instead of espresso. So, you’ll be mixing equal parts of coffee and hot milk rather than espresso and hot milk!
Are there any other types of lattes?
For the most part, a latte is a latte. But, there are quite a few variations out there when it comes to the actual temperature of the latte and the additional flavoring used.
- Iced lattes. This one’s pretty simple. Most recipes ask you to simply set aside a glass of ice and then pour the espresso and milk over the ice. All you have to do is shake it up a little, and it’s ready to drink.
- Flavoring. The only difference between flavored lattes and regular lattes is, you guessed it, the flavors you add. You can try out some unique options like orange or raspberry or lean more toward conservative choices like vanilla and cinnamon.
- Cafe mocha. In addition to regular flavoring, you can also add chocolate flavoring for an extra flavor boost. The cafe mocha usually adds chocolate powder or syrup to provide a rich dark or milk chocolate flavor.
If you head to your local coffee shop, a majority of the menu will probably be some variation of a latte. What’s even better is that they’re really easy to make at home too.
Changing the Ingredients
Just because cafe con leche and lattes both call for steamed milk and espresso doesn’t mean that you can’t play around with the ingredients on your own. Who cares if you’re not drinking the exact recipes if you enjoy it?
Here’s what you can do.
A lot of people struggle with the intensity of espresso shots. So, feel free to add some extra sugar, brown sugar, or even more milk to dilute the intensity and make the taste just a little bit better.
Also, being diabetic or lactose-intolerant doesn’t mean that you can’t drink lattes or cafe con leche. All you have to do is swap out the steamed milk and replace it with almond milk or soy milk, and it’s ready to drink (though it might taste a little different).
Add chocolate! Keep the original recipe and just sprinkle in some chocolate powder or squeeze in a blob of chocolate syrup. Make sure you mix it well, and you’ll be on your way to your own “mocha” flavored latte or cafe con leche.
A lot of coffee beverages out there are made of espresso and hot milk, just like cafe con leche and lattes. Even though these two beverages might taste similar to one another, they’re slightly different. Here’s how.
- Cafe con leche is more popular in Latin America, while lattes are more popular in the U.S.
- In terms of espresso to milk ratios, cafe con leche has 1:1 while lattes usually have 1:3.
- Cafe con leche has about double the amount of caffeine as lattes.
- Lattes come in a variety of flavors and are generally sweeter and more flavorful.
- Wikipedia: Cafe Con Leche
- Sweet Maria’s: Espresso: Preparing Milk Drinks With Espresso, Steaming Milk
- Wikipedia: Espresso
- Wikipedia: Cuban Espresso
- WikiHow: How to Make a Cafe Au Lait
- Starbucks: Iced Latte Recipe
- The Spruce Eats: Here’s What You Should Know About Flavored Lattes
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